We struggle to complete the mission Jesus has for us

Third Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 11 (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-12; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28)

Timely words of comfort and encouragement can work miracles, even more so when they are inspired by the Spirit of God. The prophet figure in Isaiah has clearly been anointed to bring healing words to the broken Israelite exiles. Good news: freedom, liberty, release and healing. But this is far more than a pep-talk — he will proclaim these Spirit-inspired words on behalf of God.

Seeing the unseeable for Christmas

First Woman: “There’s one at Yonge and Finch. I’ve heard it’s good.”

(Me — overhearing in the fitness-centre change room — “A club? A restaurant?”)

First Woman: “I’m not sure if it’s Lutheran or Catholic.”

(Me – “I’m imagining she said that.”)

Second Woman: “I’ve been going to church for a while. I tried the Martyrs’ Shrine.”

Empathy for a world that is still maturing

There’s a story told, more legend perhaps than fact, about a mayor of a large American city in the late 1960s. It wasn’t a good time for his city. It was facing financial bankruptcy, crime rates were spiralling, its public transportation system was no longer safe at night, the river supplying its drinking water was dangerously polluted, the air was rife with racial tension and there were strikes and street protests almost weekly.

As the story goes, the mayor was flying over the city in a helicopter at rush hour on a Friday afternoon. As the rush-hour bustle and traffic drowned out most everything else, he looked down at what seemed a teeming mess and said to one of his aides: “Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a plunger and we could flush this whole mess into the ocean!”

Pope says Asia offers vast opportunities for evangelization

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said Asia offers "vast scenarios of evangelization" for the church, but currently faces difficulties and "true persecution" in some places.

The Pope made the comments Nov. 25 to members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who were meeting in a plenary assembly at the Vatican.

He noted that, last year, an important meeting of Catholic laypeople was organized in South Korea, and it became an occasion for strengthening the missionary commitment throughout Asia.

Embracing change to renew communal worship, faith

NEWMARKET, Ont. - As the catechist in an active suburban parish, I have been responsible for helping parishioners and teachers in our parish schools prepare for the changes that English-speaking Catholics will experience now that Advent is here.

When I first learned that we would be using a new translation of the Mass a few years ago, I knew that it would be very important to prepare people for the change. In my 20+ years of experience in pastoral ministry, I have learned that change in general is difficult for people. Change in peoples’ traditions and rituals, however, can be exceedingly difficult. 

We can open the way to the Kingdom

Second Sunday of Advent (Year B) Dec. 4 (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11; Psalm 85; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8)

Time whizzes by like an express train when we are enjoying ourselves. An enjoyable vacation has scarcely begun before it is time to go back to work. But when we are anticipating something or waiting for something to occur time absolutely creeps by.

Human time and God’s time are very different. We are an impatient people and want everything now or very soon. Human staying power is not the greatest. People become disillusioned or lose heart very quickly and easily. The Israelites had been in exile in Babylon for more than 50 years and it must have seemed like an eternity. Many had almost forgotten home while those born in captivity knew only Babylon. To many of the oldtimers it must have seemed that God had forgotten and abandoned them and that they were doomed to dwell forever in an alien land.

Love beyond naiveté and romance

Several years ago, a Presbyterian minister I know challenged his congregation to open its doors and heart more fully to the poor. The congregation initially responded with enthusiasm and programs were introduced that actively invited people from the less-privileged economic areas of the city, including a number of street people, to come to their church.

But the romance soon died as coffee cups and other loose items began to disappear, some handbags were stolen and the church and meeting space were often left messy and soiled. A number of people began to complain and demand an end to the experiment: “This isn’t what we expected! Our church isn’t clean and safe any more! We wanted to reach out to these people and this is what we get!”  

Franciscans think UNESCO status could complicate rules at holy sites

JERUSALEM - Palestinians are hopeful that UNESCO will recognize the city of Bethlehem as the first Palestinian World Heritage Site, but Franciscans in charge of the city's holy places say they do not want them included in the classification.

"We don't want the (UNESCO) recognition for the holy places," said a Franciscan source who asked not to be named. "We fear it could lead to nationalization of the shrines. The shrines are not tourist places, but are places of prayer and worship."

The custos of the Holy Land, Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa, told the Italian bishops' news agency, SIR, that the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchates had joined him in asking the Palestinian Authority to exclude the Church of the Nativity in the application for the UNESCO World Heritage Site classification.

In Benin, Pope urges Africa to uphold values of family, human dignity

COTONOU, Benin - Arriving in Benin for a three-day visit, Pope Benedict XVI urged the African continent to protect its ancient values in the face of spiritual and ethical erosion.

"The transition to modernity must be guided by sure criteria based on recognized virtues ... firmly rooted in the dignity of the person, the importance of the family and respect for life," the Pope said after arriving Nov. 18 at Cardinal Bernardin Gantin International Airport in Cotonou.

The 84-year-old Pope was welcomed by President Thomas Yayi Boni, church and civil dignitaries and an exuberant crowd of singing, scarf-waving women who danced in salutation.

Missal will bring consistency to Mass texts of English-speaking world

TORONTO - Not every region in the English-speaking dioceses across the world currently uses the exact same texts during Mass, said Gregory Beath of the archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Formation for Discipleship.

But with the introduction of the new Roman Missal, that will change.

“This is the first time that we will have across the world a standard English translation of the Roman Missal,” he said.

Speaking to an audience of about 30 people Nov. 9, Beath gave a presentation on the new Roman Missal at the Chancery Office of the archdiocese of Toronto. The third edition of the Missal is effective the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27.

Since it’s become a popular choice for those in other countries to learn English, the Vatican was concerned about standard English, said Beath.

While communities that have strong roots in the Latin language, like Italian and Spanish, will probably have a lot of scholars in the Church that work with Latin regularly and help translate between Latin and those receiving languages, there are many languages that may not.

In these cases, since people are more likely to translate from the English translation, the Vatican wanted it to be as exact as possible, he said.

“The Vatican’s concern is that they don’t want anything to get lost in translation,” said Beath.

And English lacks specific words to mean the same thing which the Latin uses in the original text, said Beath, referencing information from a presentation by Fr. Bill Burke, director of the National Liturgy Office for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

One example can be found in the third preface for the Rite of Marriage, he said. Latin uses five different words as synonyms: pietas, which is the love a parent has for a child; consortia, which designates the companionship of two people sharing a life; amor, which is closely rendered “love” in English; caritas, which is a nobler form of love captured by the English cognate “charity”; and dilectio, which is related to the English word “delight.”

The new Missal will also be more singable, he told the audience.

“The liturgy lends itself to being sung so you’ll notice that some of the prayers will be more singable and we’ve encouraged priests to sing the preface and sing the doxology.”

For more information on the Missal, see www.archtoronto.org/romanmissal.

Belief in Resurrection means belief in final victory of love, pope says

VATICAN CITY - Believing in Christ's resurrection means that no matter how difficult life gets, one believes that love and goodness are far more powerful than hatred and evil, Pope Benedict XVI said.

"Yes, in the world there is much evil, there is a permanent battle between good and evil and it seems that evil is stronger. But, no, the Lord is stronger," the pope said Nov. 16 during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square.

"Despite all the things that make us doubt the positive outcome of history, Christ wins and goodness wins. Love, and not hatred, wins," he said.